A social media planner's guide to pleasing the boss

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It's that time again, and I'm not only talking about turkey and gifts. It's the 11th hour, when most marketing departments and agencies are budget-crunching and determining the coming year's next brilliant marketing plan. We frantically multitask, running the biggest campaigns of the year during the holiday season while juggling turkeys and gifts.

How do you do it all without producing a half-baked strategy that will make your boss cringe? Let's start with an understanding of your primary target market: your executive team. The fact is that to be successful as a marketing manager or social strategist, you'll need buy-in from the execs in order to move forward with your brilliant marketing plan in the first place. And unfortunately for you, social media marketing is one of the least understood and controversial marketing disciplines out there.

There are big differences between the executive level and the "doers" who are expected to get the job done:

  • Executives view the world in the "big picture"; doers need to understand the details within the "small picture."
  • Executives think in terms of profit and loss statements; doers think in terms of best practices and managing their campaign budgets.
  • Executives are future-thinkers who envision the end result; doers determine a viable means to that end.

It's easy to see where the disconnect lies between an executive and a marketer. While you're working harder than ever to implement a solid marketing strategy, your executive is looking into the future with more questions than decisions in each successive meeting. How do you convince your executives to let you work smarter, not harder? First convince them of the value of social media.

Social media happened. And it's growing at an unprecedented speed. If your company isn't already participating in social media, it has fallen dog-years behind the rest of the world -- not to mention many of your competitors. According to eMarketer, four out of five U.S. businesses with 100 or more employees will use social media marketing this year. Information is coming at us faster than it ever has before, businesses are discovering new opportunities to connect with potential and current customers, and being a smart, tech-savvy company has become part of the cost of doing business. To put it in a nutshell:

Innovate or die.

The talk
Before you resort to death threats, try having a more civilized discussion with your executive. Walk into your executive's office with a future vision of the company and a half-dozen statements in your back pocket:

  1. I want to discuss how our company can stay competitive in our fast-changing environment. Do your homework and bring examples of what your competitors are doing -- or not doing -- in your market. Execs pride themselves on keeping up with the Joneses.

  2. It's an ideal time to gain market share. Note opportunities where competitors are falling short and where your brand can be first to show up. Identify which discussions are happening about your products and services online, and how you can connect with current and potential customers.

  3. Social media has become a standard in how business gets done. It's not a magic wand; it's just another way to communicate. Would you have said "no" to the telephone when it first became available in 1877? To quote author Becky Carroll, social media "has become business as usual."

  4. Our brand can live or die in real time. B2B and B2C customers expect information, right here, right now. It's not enough to have only a website and a phone number (we've come a long way since 1877); people expect an open channel of two-way communication. Your customers are talking about your brand, and they want to know that you are paying attention. Neglect your customers, and they may very well turn to your competitors for answers.

  5. Numbers are like music to an executive's heart. An executive can't ignore mind-blowing stats from eMarketer, MarketingCharts.com, or Forrester Research. A couple of numbers your boss needs to hear: eMarketer predicts 88 percent of companies in the U.S. will be using social media tools for marketing in 2012, and more than 51.6 percent of U.S. internet users (that's 102.9 million people and counting) are already on social networks.

  6. Hit below the belt. All that logic still didn't work? Many executives are currently reading Walter Isaacson's "Steve Jobs" biography and pondering how effective they are at leading their own company. So WWSJD (What Would Steve Jobs Do)? Yeah, I went there.


Andy Morales
Andy Morales November 22, 2011 at 7:40 PM

Great Article. I really enjoyed your elaboration under each bullet point.

Carrie Peterson
Carrie Peterson November 18, 2011 at 4:17 PM

Great article, Melanie! Really appreciate the insight and honesty, it's as if you were reading my mind!